En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - April 23, 2009

From: Rockwall, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Privacy Screening
Title: Privacy screen for Rockwall, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Dallas area privacy screen recommendations. I have about 125ft of wrought iron fence between my yard and the neighbor's and a drainage pipe that runs along the fence. The neighbor's property sits up about 2-3 ft higher than mine; the fence is 5 ft tall. I want a privacy screen of at least 6 ft tall or higher, fast growing, keep its leaves all year long, and not take up much of my yard (width-wise). All nurseries recommend ligustrum but it will take up too much of the yard. Any suggestions?


First, let us reinforce your reluctance to go with ligustrum. Both Ligustrum sinense (Chinese privet) and Ligustrum japonica are native to Asia.  They can get very big and somewhat overwhelming, are considered invasive in southeast Texas, can form thickets, crowd out more desirable plants and are difficult to remove. Not only that, they have flowers with a rather unpleasant odor and produce  abundant pollen to add to allergy woes. It is hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 8 to 10, and every once in a while, a really cold spell hits the Dallas-Ft. Worth area and knocks down ligustrum all over the place.

There are native alternatives for your privacy screen. We don't necessarily recommend very fast-growing plants, because they tend to break down easily and are short-lived. And the fact that a plant is "evergreen" does not mean it never drops leaves. Leaves drop and are replaced over the course of the year, just not all at once. It seems we keep recommending the same two or three shrubs in these frequent requests we get for "privacy screen" plants. The problem is that not a great many woody plants are evergreen, and the few trees that are, including live oaks and conifers, get a whole lot wider than what you have in mind. So, here once more are our "privacy screen stars:"

Ilex vomitoria (yaupon) - evergreen, 12 to 25 ft., more common in southeast Texas, but adaptable. Takes pruning very well to maintain desired height and width. Sun, part shade.

Morella cerifera (wax myrtle) - Evergreen, 6 to 12 ft., fragrant foliage. Looser, lighter form, can be pruned into tree or shrub. Sun, part shade.

Ilex vomitoria


Ilex vomitoria


Morella cerifera

Morella cerifera

More Privacy Screening Questions

Trees for screen around pool near Dallas
June 13, 2010 - I am looking for a native plant to use around a pool to provide screening (I am putting in a 12 ft tall set of flag poles to suspend a sun screen the HOA wants me to block the flag poles) I have 8 ft ...
view the full question and answer

Need evergreen hedge and groundcover for shade in Carmel, Indiana
September 27, 2010 - Our property is bounded by a fencerow that is wooded and mostly shaded by mulberry and hackberry trees during the growing months. We'd like to create a 5'+ tall evergreen barrier on the property li...
view the full question and answer

Evergreen shrub/small tree for screen in southern California
August 06, 2010 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants - I would like to find an evergreen hedge, ~15-20' (or so) to screen a busy road (noise and visual). I'm zone 8b - 92539 (close to) - light snow in winter (to -25) and can ge...
view the full question and answer

Neat and tidy, poolside in Austin Texas.
December 01, 2010 - I have a small section between our pool and fence (approx 3 feet wide). I would like to plant something native that obscures the fence but does not create a mess for the pool. The area gets sun most...
view the full question and answer

Privacy Trees for Pleasanton, CA
April 30, 2014 - I was looking for some fast growing trees for my backyard that backs up to Valley Ave in Pleasanton, Ca. The city just cut down 4 Redwoods behind me and there is so much noise from the traffic now Ca...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center